Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 12, 2006)
Back when I reviewed Season Three of The Flintstones, I declared that the arrival of Pebbles essentially marked the series’ downfall. However, I deferred final judgment until Season Four, since Pebbles wasn’t on most of Season Three’s shows.
So here we are, and it’s time to see what level of quality Season Four – the first for which Pebbles was around the whole time – maintained. I’ll examine each of these 26 programs in the way presented on the DVDs, which also corresponds to their airdates. The “P#” after the title relates the episode’s place in the production order; for example, “P2” was the second program completed. The synopses come from a site called “The Flintstones and Hanna-Barbera” (http://www.topthat.net/webrock) - thanks to them for their permission to use the recaps.
Ann-Margrock Presents (P-103): " Fred and Wilma hire ‘Annie’ to baby-sit Pebbles, unaware that the young woman is actually Ann-Margrock in town to perform at a show for which Fred and Barney plan to audition.”
The first episode of the season and they’re already resorting to guest star gimmicks? That’s not a good sign. It doesn’t help that the show essentially recycles plots from other earlier programs. Ann-Marget makes for an uninspired guest, and this ends up as a bland episode without much to make it memorable.
Groom Gloom (P-90): " Fred dreams that Pebbles has married Arnold.”
The second episode of the season and they’re already resorting to fantasy gimmicks? That’s not a good sign. The program uses a thin framework for its story, though it does toss out some amusing moments, most of which connect to Fred’s attempts to play ping-pong. When we get to the dream sequence, though – which creates most of the show – matters go downhill. That means we get another bland show.
Little Bamm-Bamm (P-101): " After wishing on a falling star, the Rubbles find Bamm-Bamm abandoned on their doorstep. Their attempt to adopt the boy leads to a custody battle involving attorney Perry Masonry.”
The third episode of the season and they’re already resorting to a new baby added to the series? That’s not a good sign. Obviously this is an important show since it introduces a major new character, but it’s not an especially entertaining one. Actually, the trial at the end offers some good material. The rest of it falters due to a lackluster story and too many silly elements. And what the heck is up with Bamm-Bamm, anyway? With his white hair and his superhuman strength, I figure he must be some government experiment gone awry.
Dino Disappears (P-89): " Feeling unloved and unwanted, Dino runs away from home.”
If nothing else, “Disappears” earns my affection due to the scene in which Pebbles refuses to eat. I have to feed my older dog by hand, and when she tires of the food, she’ll turn her snout away in a manner that strongly resembles Pebbles’ motions. My friends and I state that Oat’s “doing a Pebbles” when this happens.
A few other amusing bits emerge, such as the odd little Pebbles doll Fred buys. The focus on Dino makes the show better than average – at least for this season. He really goes through a lot of comic humiliation in this pretty good program.
Fred’s Monkeyshines (P-91): " Fred's new glasses give him a dangerously distorted view of the world.”
Am I the only one who thinks it doesn’t make sense that Fred’s eyesight suddenly deteriorates to the point where he can’t tell the difference between Pebbles and a monkey? Granted, he thinks this is psychological, but the concept does come out of nowhere. At least the show offers some good slapstick due to all the nutty situations Fred falls into because he can’t see.
The Flintstone Canaries (P-92): "Fred persuades Barney to sing lead in his barbershop quartet group on the ‘Hum Along With Herman’ show.”
DVD One concludes with a memorable show. The Soft Soap jingle will stick in your brain for days, and I like the idea that Barney can only sing in the shower. A little more good slapstick turns this one into a funny episode.
Glue for Two (P-93): "Fred's new soft drink doubles as a super glue, and he and Barney are soon joined at the bowling ball.”
“Glue” gives us some above-average entertainment for Season Four. That’s largely because it resembles something from earlier years. It has hints of Season Two’s “The House Guest” and Season Three’s “Nothing But the Tooth” but it still forges its own identity. Plenty of great bits emerge in this loose and funny episode.
Big League Freddie (P-94): "Fred is mistakenly credited with the phenomenal baseball performance of rookie Roger. He plans to usurp Roger's shot at the big leagues, and the gang give him the cold shoulder.”
“Freddie” spawns one of my favorite odd catchphrases: “But that was Roger!” Fred deflects Wilma’s criticism and tells others that this means he didn’t have a good game. It’s a weird reference but one that I like.
In addition to that memorable expression, “Freddie” tosses out other good moments. The series has explored the comic potential of sports in the past, but I like its parts related to Fred’s egomania. It’s not a great show, but it’s pretty solid.
Old Lady Betty (P-96): "Betty, disguised as elderly Mrs. O-Lady, takes a job purchasing common items with large bills for an equally bogus old woman, who turns out to be a counterfeiter.”
While it’s good to find a Betty-centered episode, this isn’t a particularly strong show. It steals too much from prior programs like Season Three’s “Here’s Snow In Your Eyes” and “Grandma Dynamite” and Season Two’s “The Impractical Joker”. It lacks much punch and only gets in a few funny bits.
Sleep On, Sweet Fred (P-95): "Wilma and Betty use "sleep teaching" to get what they want out of their husbands, but Fred and Barney catch on and decide to turn the tables on them.”
Season Four rebounds with the pretty funny “Sleep”. It starts well as it shows Fred’s bizarrely dirty feet, and I enjoy the sight of sneaky, angry Wilma. I love the wives’ aggressiveness and their underhanded method – I still quote their attempts to subliminal influence, and Wilma’s discussions with a snoozing Fred are hilarious. This show digs in with energy and humor.
Kleptomaniac Pebbles (P-97): "Pebbles' tendency to take anything that isn't nailed down is exploited by jewel thief Baffles Gravel.”
Hey, Bamm-Bamm’s back! One problem with these shows appearing in production order: continuity goes out the window. That means on a few episodes after “Little Bamm-Bamm”, we saw the Rubbles in an apparently childless state.
I don’t know if that’ll continue, but at least this show returns matters to the correct situation. Too bad it doesn’t offer a lot of entertainment. The only quotable moment comes from Fred’s nervous “goodboo, goodbee, so long” when he goes to return the stolen jewels. Otherwise, this is a fairly bland show.
Daddy’s Little Beauty (P-99): "Fred enters Pebbles in a beauty contest.”
When I indicated I thought the arrival of Pebbles harmed The Flintstones, episodes like “Beauty” were in my mind. Nothing about the show screams that the series had problems, but it demonstrates a negative trend: it’s too soft. The best Flintstones had a roughness, but the post-Pebbles series is too nice. While not without its charms, “Beauty” lacks much spark.
Daddies Anonymous (P-98): "D.A. is a club where Bedrock fathers secretly hang out and play cards when they should be walking their children.”
Isn’t that basically the same plot as Season One’s “Dance Class” episode? In that one, guys joined the fire department as an excuse to get out of the house, so this tale hews closely to it. The program does make Fred and Barney look more irresponsible, though, as they simply park their kids – with a bunch of others – in a lot and leave them for hours with no supervision.
Well, I guess parents worried less in the Stone Age! The show never really goes much of anywhere, I’m afraid. It tosses out occasional giggles, but nothing scintillating occurs.
Peek-A-Boo Camera (P-102): "Fred and Barney attend a wild bachelor party under false pretenses, but the wives may never forgive them if their appearance on ‘Peek-A- Boo Camera’ airs.”
Even a mediocre Flintstones always finds something odd and amusing. I’m struck by the weirdness of Barney’s insanely loud potato chips; this is a throwaway moment, but I like it. Otherwise, this is a lackluster program. It foreshadows the Simpsons episode in which Homer gets caught at a bachelor party, but I don’t find much else to make it memorable.
Once Upon a Coward (P-105): "Fred is held up by a masked man who tells him to raise his arms ‘nice and slow’. He subsequently engages in dangerous activities to salvage his reputation.”
“Coward” repeats the same gag over and over again. We see Fred tell people that he couldn’t have stopped the crook, and they demonstrate his mistake. The episode quickly becomes tiresome and goes nowhere.
Ten Little Flintstones (P-104): "A flying saucer drops off ten duplicates of Fred, whose life is turned upside down by their actions.”
Even with its queer concept, “Little” is fun. The idea of doubles whose behavior gets Fred in trouble reminds me of Season One’s “The Tycoon”, but “Little” goes its own way. From the chant of “YABBA! DABBA! DOO!” to their stiff behavior, the alien doubles are a blast.
Fred El Terrifico (P-106): "Fred, sporting another flamboyant moustache, deals with jewel thieves and the jealous Wilma while on vacation in Rockapulco.”
We keep finding more and more recycled stories in Season Four. “Terrifico” does little more than mush together other episodes like Season One’s “The Split Personality” and shows I’ve already mentioned such as “Here’s Snow In Your Eyes”. The program’s Stone Age take on Mexico is interesting, though it sure doesn’t look too PC these days.
Bedrock Hillbillies (P-100): "Fred inherits a hillbilly ‘estate’ and is unwillingly pulled into the ancient Hatrock-Flintstone feud.”
If we don’t count the teaser at the start, “Hillbillies” doesn’t even show Fred or any of the series regulars until more than eight minutes into the show. “Hillbillies” feels like a story that stretches for new characters and situations, but it’s odd enough to work. Or maybe I just like the Hatrocks because they’ll inspire a fun show with the “Four Bugs” in later years. Anyway, “Hillbillies” is a strange program with some good elements.
Inconsistency alert: the Flintstones bring Pebbles with them to Arkanstone, but what do the Rubbles do with Bamm-Bamm?
DVD FOUR, SIDE A:
Flintstone and the Lion (P-107): "Fred stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that the kitten he brought home has become a hungry and unmanageable mountain lion.”
More inconsistency: don’t the Flintstones already have a cat? Despite that oddness, “Lion” is a charming show. The warm relationship between Fred and the cat is nice to see. Of course, this being The Flintstones, we never hear about the kitty again, but it’s still a good one-shot show.
Cave Scout Jamboree (P-108): "Far from being the isolated vacation spot the Flintstones and Rubbles were promised, Shangri-La-De-Da Valley turns out to be the site of a huge gathering of boy scouts.”
Remember that stubborn case of niceness that I felt was harming the series? It comes out in spades here. Fred and Barney so eagerly attach to the scouts that the show gets too cute. It lacks much humor and plods along.
Room for Two (P-110): "Barney's deciding vote against Fred in the ‘Water Buffalo of the Year’ run-off leads to a bitter fight over a new room.”
At least the feud between Fred and Barney returns some bile to the series. It evokes memories of Season One’s “The Swimming Pool” but has enough of its own personality. It doesn’t soar, but it entertains well.
Ladies Night at the Lodge (P-109): "Dressed as men, Wilma and Betty attempt to join the Water Buffalo Lodge but barely survive the initiation.”
“Lodge” goes with a predictable concept but makes it work. I like the look behind the scenes at the Water Buffaloes and think it’s good to focus on Wilma and Betty for once. The program presents lots of funny bits to turn into a winner.
DVD FOUR, SIDE B:
Reel Trouble (P-111): "Fred bores everyone he can with his home movies of Pebbles, then inadvertently captures a robbery on film.”
“Trouble” works best as a parody of too-proud parents. It’s amusing to see Fred’s obsession with photography. The show loses steam when it gets concerned with the crooks, but it still has enough strong moments to succeed.
Son of Rockzilla (P-113): " Fred dons a monster suit to create publicity for a new horror film, but becomes stuck and is chased by the police and a lovesick finkasaurus.”
Here comes another story that feels reminiscent of older shows. “Rockzilla” comes across as a sequel to Season One’s much superior “The Monster from the Tar Pits”. It goes on some different paths, but mostly it acts as a lackluster package of jokes about Fred’s ugliness.
Episode oddity: this one comes without a laugh track. I wish all the shows were that way, but I must admit it’s disconcerting when it occurs in isolation like this.
Bachelor Daze (P-112): "How young Fred and Barney met their future wives while working at the Honeyrock Hotel.”
If nothing else, “Daze” is fun to see as a show that spells out the characters’ earlier years. It doesn’t present a ton of laughs, but it maintains a cute tone. Those elements allow it to turn into a nice program.
Operation Switchover (P-114): "Fred and Wilma switch jobs for the day. Will Fred win the Housewife of the Year Award?”
Here we find yet another episode that rips off an earlier Flintstones show. Here the show’s producers borrow liberally from Season One’s “In the Dough”, a piece that required Fred and Barney to impersonate the wives. Granted, this one twists things, but it still seems awfully similar. “Switchover” has its moments but lacks the creativity needed to fly.
As I mentioned at the start of the review, I think Season Three of The Flintstones is when the series “jumped the shark”. The arrival of Pebbles marked its official decline, and we’ll see more signs of that in Season Four. To be sure, the show still churned out some great programs, but we’ll find more dreck and less gold as the years progress.